Snakebites, December 1999
Volume 99, Issue 12
1st ANNUAL YEAR-END HOLIDAY ISSUE!
After almost a full year of monthly issues, SNAKEBITES is proud to
the holidays with this special collection of lies, rumors and other
The editors would like to dedicate this issue to all the middle-
upper-level managers in beautiful downtown Omaha, without whom we
very little to write about. And, of course, a
special year-end greeting to
all our friends on the 12th floor. (You know who you are.)
Speaking of managers: In our last issue we described the similarities
management training and the conditioning of apes in psychological
experiments. We realize that this was totally insensitive and we
out of line on this. Our apologies to the apes.
Our target of the month is that monument to all that's right (and
Uncle Pete, the Harriman Dispatching Center, better known as THE
Report from THE BUNKER
Here's one from deep within the bowels of Harriman Dispatching Center,
tabernacle to all things at once great and sacred about the virtual
Within the past week, it seems that a train dispatcher of some 20
experience (no Johnny-come-lately, in other words) followed a
the letter about handling specified trains. The net outcome was
that one of
the sacred "Z" trains was delayed as a consequence.
Heresy that that might
be, the area superintendent (a former SP train dispatcher AND
griever) was so incensed as a result of the delay that he wanted to
the errant dispatcher with, get this, "MALICIOUS OBEDIENCE".
something distorted here?
Interestingly, this same area superintendent attempted to reschedule
days of most of the former SP DigiCon dispatchers so that his train
dispatcher wife could have weekends off. There were rumors that
became openly restless and near violent. Nothing like the UP
instill a renewed sense of dedication towards one's employer and the
thereof. To hear the PR flacks tell it to the public, all of us
are so proud
to be UP employees. Maybe Jerry Springer could come to
Omaha, rent a VFW
hall for a day, and invite dispatchers to appear before the camera so
there could be individual expressions of UP pride for the nation to
I have high confidence that there will be more to come, especially
wonderful system for controlling train movements called Track Warrant
or, as it is known in some circles, Death Warrant Control.
We get Letters, Part 1 (This is just one of many on the subject)
I work as a conductor on the Bakersfield-LA or West Colton line. Our
trains, with all their speed restrictions on our district in addition
normal dispatching issues on this crowded line and speed slowing
a hard time making it in the hours of service. Often 10 minutes of
make or break a trip.
We have a dispatcher who works 2nd trick, who, when holding a west
train on the cut-off for a train going on to or from the Metrolink at
Palmdale Jct, routinely stops the west manifest at Palmdale II rather
moving it to the controlled signal at
Palmdale Jct. (The preferred move.) By holding the train at the
station he adds about 10 minutes delay. Apparently in the interest of
remaining ignorant of his territory he doesn't know about the 7100
space between the 2 grade crossings in the intermediate block. Or that
those crossings is a private road to a cemetery and is not used
This, along with similar stories from other places, show how willing
company is to lose money, time and service because their bean counters
bright enough to quantify the cost of unnecessary delay from poor
decisions made because that Nintendo game that passes for a
system gives no indication of what the real railroad is like and,
forbid, a dispatcher would ever be able to actually ride the rails.
In this case, the experienced dispatchers who know the territory and
crews who work it, know the crew will stop their train in the
place to avoid blocking crossings and otherwise manage the train in
effective way if he will keep the signals properly cleared for the
Steve from Bakersfield
YOU MIGHT BE A U.P. TRAIN DISPATCHER IF:
1. The most common phrase used on your shift is "What is your
2. Your idea of a good day is that just half your trains died on HOS.
3. You intentionally kill trains on the main line
4. You consider sidings to be running tracks ( the dead train is on
5. A hot train is also known as a "local"
6. You schedule manifest trains ahead of "Z" trains
7. Horsepower per ton doesn't mean spit
8. The tone button and phone ring constantly and you just don't care.
9. You qualified on a Lionel train set.
10. You really did order the ride, really.
11. You call relief for your relief crews.
12. Your real ambition is to be a yardmaster
13. You consider Omaha to be Paradise
14. At the cafe you make the waiter repeat your order, followed by
15. You have DIGICON on your PC at home
16. You think your territory is flat due to the straight lines on your
17. Your answering machine sounds a beep and then places the caller on
18. Your favorite quote is "I am the dispatcher, do as you are
19. You think the Corridor Manager has "The Right Stuff"
20. You can even screw up directional traffic
Editor's Note: There are some great train dispatchers on the UP,
can't play the piano when your fingers are taped together!
OK, you guys, lighten up on those train dispatchers! Save some
of your venom
for our pals over at CMS!
In the past few weeks, I'm sure you've all noticed that when you call
don't always get the dispatcher you wanted. Well, the so-called
their asses chewed because the phones weren't getting answered quickly
enough, so they set up the system to ring on the next available phone,
matter whose. Now you get an answer, then get put on hold while
you wait for
your assigned crew disp. to answer. Maybe. Works great for the
number-crunchers, bad for crews and really bad for crew dispatchers.
Stress on these poor souls is so bad the UP is considering buying and
complete with staff, an entire surplus Soviet psychiatric hospital
Siberia and locating it in that vacation paradise, North Platte, just
Speaking of bad news, don't let anyone die without making sure you can
off some time. One of our own recently lost a close relative and
five calls and three hours to get an OK for bereavement leave.
values, UP Style.
Yardmaster Daffy says they ought to pay for family photos for all
employees so when you bitch about not seeing your family enough
you the picture. Now get on that train!
Membership I, flagship of the UTU fleet, visits our area in December.
big bus has more bells & whistles than the space shuttle.
Come out and see
where none of your dues money went. Rumor has
it this behemoth will be
equipped with armor plate and a 105mm gun on its return to Cleveland
to protect headquarters from the evil hordes of the BLE.
Roseville Yard Christmas Wish List
1. Dave Roper wishes for more chairs in the Yardmaster's office so all
officers who stand looking over his shoulder will
have a place to sit.
2. Todd Ray wishes for a new lock that can be operated by train
3. Jim Bradley, Bob Cree, Punky, Todd Pearce and several others wish
looked as good as Dave Kangas.
4. The entire Car Dept. wishes the drains worked on 201.
5. Lee Neal wishes he had a date.
6. Punky wishes you guys would quit running thru those -----ing
7. K-POP wishes the wheels on his chair rolled easier on carpeting.
8. Dick Davidson wishes Art Schoener was around to give him some more
9. Carl wishes Drew would quit running into him every time he stops.
10. Corky wishes we would forget the nickname "Spike"
"...This is Worker Speaking..."
As I look out over this vast, "backside of the moon - resembling
view of the Union Pacific, a few thoughts begin shooting out of my
fingertips. I can remember two short years ago when the Union
"bleeding green," with the merger related service problems,
were experiencing at the Texas epicenter. Things were really bad
UP management was scared that the government was going to break up the
railroad in the southland. The employees (members of nearly all
organizations) shared those fears, and pitched in to save the
Remember seeing all those praises and accolades being heaped upon the
employees by various high ranking officers in the UPINFO Magazine?
don't read it either?)...Well, I remember them. I even heard the
on a number of BTV Broadcasts.
The bottom line that it was the employees that helped to save this
Sure, it was jobs we saved, but it is still our railroad and without
help, Dick Davidson and his underwhelming staff of overpaid managers
have all been given a one way ticket down the sewer pipe express.
So, now we are basking in the glow of carrier's appreciation.
How does the
Union Pacific show it appreciation to the employees (especially the
hired minions?) Do we cut them some slack during "slack
time?" Hell no...!!
Cut them off the extra board and force them to protect their
seniority 7 or
8 hundred miles away. Just ignore the fact that the union has
action violates the agreement. Don't bother to work it out with
just do it and force the kids to move or quit!! Better yet, just
keep 'um in
cut off status and continue to shove the pools and drop turns...!
It seems as if the Union Pacific, flush with excitement over its
recovery numbers, has renewed its rampage for even further cost cuts.
short, that means that customer service will suffer (due to the
overtime). That also means that at a number of locations, the
keep employees in furloughed status, at the same time refusing to
anyone from taking PL days or single day vacations. The practice
turns will continue. Does that make any sense? Only to the
and they have a full time job.
Every Union Pacific chief operating officer that I can remember has
said that the railroad's number one obligation was to it's
employees position on that priority list was somewhere near the
situation is pretty much the same with all transportation companies,
prominent exception. Take Southwest Airlines for example.
There is a
company where they don't beat up on their employees, and they have
continually grown their business since 1971. They are adding new
jobs) every year, and their employees are actually happy to come to
number of years ago, all the Southwest employees voluntarily donated a
percentage of their earnings from profit sharing and bought an
aircraft for the fleet. They presented it to their CEO in a
ceremony. (That's a lot of peanuts!)
Do you think that conditions on the UP will ever evolve to the same
The UP (along with many other class one railroads) still has that
mentality" when it comes to dealing with their employees.
management needs to look over the fence and take a hard look at the
corporations treat their employees. The Southwest example is
that the bottom line will continually improve if you treat your
like an asset, and not a liability.
Quote of the Month
"If you had to identify, in one word, the reason the human race
achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would
thanks to Ernie M.
THE SNAKEBITES INTERVIEW
Beginning this issue and sporadically in the coming year, Snakebites
in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers of rail management and
Your Editors have tried to line up an interesting and well-informed
subjects for your reading enjoyment. This month we are proud to
our first subject, the President of UP, Ike Evans.
Snakebites: When Dick Davidson asked you to come aboard at UP,
your perceptions of the company?
Ike Evans: Dick who? Before we begin let's relax, take off our
ties and then
get down to business. As an example of the new, informal values
to the UP, you may call me Sir.
SB: Sir it is, then.
IE: When I took the reins of UP, I saw that we really needed to
shake up the
company, make it more responsive to its number one customer, the
SB: Union Pacific management? It's commonly thought that
transportation services for freight. Aren't shippers your
IE: True, but in the 1990s our focus is UP management itself.
we're talking stock options and stock prices.
SB: An interesting formulation. UP's stock has been doing
well, even with
the service disruptions last year.
IE: Those service interruptions in reality were just mid-course
as we brought our hub-and-spoke agreements on line. If there
problems, they can be traced to a small band of older, disgruntled,
educated, rather unintelligent employees, all of them expert computer
hackers, by the way, who tapped into our secure systems while they
duty and balled things up.
SB: Let's turn our attentions to UP's labor problems.
IE: Hold it right there! We've got great relations with
the BTU and the ULE!
SB: You mean the UTU and the BLE, don't you?
IE: Wrong! After we remake the railroad in our own
image, not even those
union folks will know which way is up.
SB: That's strong language coming from the president of a
company with a
long history of craft unionism. Do you have plans to eliminate
IE: Not exactly. We can roll over their upper leadership
them in Congress. At the same time we buy off their grass roots
with phony OS jobs doing what we should be paying our own officers to
SB: Let me understand this correctly: You've initiated a
policy of outright
IE: Of course not. But the planned merging of the EBT and
the UUL will
redound to our advantage. More to the point, our newly hired
been indoctrinated into the UP way of doing things. We've driven
between the veterans, especially the old SP types, and the new hires
might add, are easily influenced.
SB: Influenced how?
IE: Our policy is to keep entry level employees, the ones who..
things with train cars, slightly off balance. We hire them, fire
transfer them and then cut them off while constantly reminding them
they are to be working for UP.
SB: But what happens to productivity? What about job
skills that only come
with years of experience?
IE: If our subjects, I mean employees don' t like the
lifestyle they can go
to work for the competition. As for job skills, if our new hires
hamburgers, they can push buttons or whatever to drive the trains.
we're focusing on looking after UP's number one customer, and that's
SB: If I understand you correctly, it sounds like you're
working to, how
shall I say, "McDonaldize" the railroad?
IE: Once we outsource almost every aspect of operations
repair, fueling, car inspections to name but a few of our present
burdens, Wall Street will love us.
SB: Are these policies prudent for the long-term viability of
IE: Let's face it, shippers use UP because they have to.
We've got our
customers locked in, bottled up and if it takes two months instead of
days to deliver a load of toaster ovens, let them eat Pop-Tarts. One
to look at the data in our glossy company publications to see tangible
of the redefined benchmarks by which our success is measured. I
management on a job well done!
SB: Thank you Ike... I mean, Sir, for a most refreshing
'Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the yard
not a creature was stirring,
except for the guard. Who, put by the gate,
made sure that no crews could make
The trim jobs were stuck by the herder with care
In the hope that St. Kangas soon would be there.
The switchmen were tucked in their beds (er, jobs) for the
While visions of yard boards danced in their sight.
And Conductors and Hogheads, lugging their grips,
Prepared for their usual Christmas Eve trips.
I just tied up when I heard such a clatter
That I had to look up and see what was the matter.
And suddenly something had caught my eye,
Circling the Super Coop, High in the sky.
A green Ford Explorer, all covered with lights,
Pulled by eight tiny jackrabbits,it made quite a sight.
Riding inside was a white-bearded man
A bundle of papers in his right hand.
He landed the Ford in its own parking place
Walked over to us with a smile on his face
His glasses were frosty, his white beard glistened,
He said, "Gather round, guys, and give this a listen.
I've just come from Foothills and worked like the Devil
To see that you all were reduced by one level.
And now, because it is Christmas Eve,
Take the night off. That's right, you can leave!"
He jumped in the Ford and he turned on the lights
And started to rise in the wintery night
And I heard him exclaim just before he was gone,
"Merry Christmas to all and be back before dawn!"
The Editors wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Safe and Prosperous
Snakebites is published by the Roseville Switchmen as a public
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